Poem: Placeholder for Home

in poetry •  2 years ago  (edited)

Placeholder for Home

I am brown skin beautiful
full dark hair
mothering roundness
ambiguously ethnic
and this place we live
snowed in
so they come to me
waiting for the bus
riding the train
passing on the street
they come
brown-skinned hands ready to embrace
eyes asking if I am
what they are

Native Hawai’ians ask
if I'm from Hawai’i
folks from India ask
if I too am Indian
I get a familiar nod
from Indigenous people
strangers try to speak Farsi to me
or Spanish
or Brazilian Portuguese

always I must shake my head
I am not the song they yearn for
my skin has not seen the same sun
my feet do not carry the dust of their roads
the colonizer’s language lies heavy on my tongue
they look for
a piece of their homeland in my face
disappointed each time I cannot be
a placeholder for home



An earlier version of this piece appeared in the anthology Sparrow’s Trill: Writers respond to the Charleston Shooting, which was published by Minerva Rising Press in 2015.

Click here to read this poem on Wordpress.

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I am black and being African staying in Africa. Cases like this i do not fully relate with, as it is very rare to see anybody in this part of the world assume you belong to a particular people. Here The only bias i think we feel are cultural and tribally related

This is a great piece, it touches a sensitive case.

Thanks!

When I was in Ghana, I did have a few folks mention they assumed I was white until I stated otherwise. I had heard from another diasporic person that this might happen, so I was prepared for it, however.

As an ethnic person, I've always wanted to know the struggles of someone racially ambiguous. I think this poem captures the lonliness of not knowing where you belong. If you're in the black community, I accept you all the same.
Shade doesn't seperate us.

I think shadeism/colorism is real, and it has real impacts on the Black community. I know that I do benefit to some extent from colorism, and people's perceptions of me vary by the context we are in. This poem to me is about solidarity and community with other people of color, another realm where colorism can be a problem, but I sometimes also envy people who are more visibly their ethnicity than I am. When I was in Ghana, several of my friends there thought I was white, because I'm so much lighter than they are, but that's the only place that's happened to me—in the US, I am recognized as poc, but I worry I am perceived as inauthentically Black. People assume I'm a wide variety of other ethnicities—I had a white woman in a bar repeatedly ask if I was sure I wasn't Samoan when I told her I'm Black, so there are points of pain there, too.

Anyway, thanks for reading! <3

<3 I'd love to support you more.

How so?

This is beautiful and little sad. I, too, have gotten the "hey, are you..?" questions, and the random strangers speaking to me in their native tongues, leaving me baffled and remorseful that I can't understand them/am not one of them.

Yes. That remorse is real—I know that desire to belong, being a Black person in the US, and it saddens me I can't ease their yearning.

this is gorgeous work. for every poem i read there are 100 others that arent nearly as eloquent. well done!

Wow, thanks! <3

As a very solidly white person, I feel that any of the words that come to mind seem. . . empty. Thank you so much for sharing your words, your experience, with us <3.

<3

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